ADDISON – After enduring two losses at the buzzer already this season, Addison Trail was hoping it was due for some good news.
James Pupillo and the Blazers made their own good fortune in a 71-61 win over previously undefeated Stagg on Monday night as part of AT’s pre-holiday tournament.
At 5-5, AT is still wondering what could have been with some of the close, late losses it has already endured. However, a .500 record is still progress.
“We could be 7-3, but we’re 5-5 now,” Pupillo said. “It’s looking good.”
Not only did the Stagg win give the Blazers a marquee, confidence-boosting victory, but it also put AT in the final of its own tournament. The final will be played at 6 p.m. on Saturday against Lake Park.
“It’s definitely the biggest one that our guys on varsity have had,” AT coach Brendan Lyons said. “[We said before the game] it would be a game where people would kind of wake up tomorrow, look up at the score [and that we won] and go, ‘Is there something wrong here? What’s going on?’ We believe in what we’re doing and we feel like have a good group of kids here.”
The Stagg victory came on the heels of a 68-58 conference win over Leyden on Dec. 13, Saturday, the Blazers picked up a forfeit win over Comer Prep from Gary, Ind., in another tourney pool play game.
AT led by 12 at halftime against the Chargers and held them off despite a third quarter run. Pupillo scored a team-high 20 points, including 14 in the second quarter, to open up the Blazers’ lead. The Chargers scored the first eight points of the third quarter to get within four, but could not get any closer than that.
Pupillo, a four-year varsity guard, has offers from smaller schools, but is hoping to land at a Division I or II program. He is drawing plenty attention from opposing teams and is still putting up big numbers. The key to Addison Trail as a team will be the ability of the other players to step up when Pupillo is closely guarded.
He scored just four points in the second half against Stagg, and the Blazers still held on without too much drama.
“These guys are pulling through,” Pupillo said. “[Opponents] focus on me with the double teams, and I got guys that can just knock down shots.”
Joe Kurucar had 17 points with five 3-pointers. Ronald Duling scored 13 and Tyler Gilliam added 10, all coming in the second half.
“It does give our kids a little boost, and these are three or four games where we’ve come out at the end in tight games and been able to hold leads,” Lyons said. “It’s given our guys the ability to say we can do this.”